Chapter 38 – The battle for time
Romaine’s conditions were not as optimistic as Brendel had imagined. With each passing second the atmosphere became more intense, and he realized that there must be a secret that she kept in a heart— and a secret that was so deeply hidden away in her heart would ultimately present itself as fatal in this dream world.
There were only the sounds of Freya and his anxious breaths while the merchant girl slept quietly in her arms, and Brendel found himself completely afraid— that Romaine would never wake up from her slumber.
He looked at the Golden Demonic Tree, the connection between the dream world and reality was becoming weaker, and it was going to wake up anytime.
Freya’s fists were clenched into a tight ball, and she had trouble finding words to rouse Romaine from her anxiety. He said they had only five minutes, but Romaine still looked like she was deeply immersed in her dream. Yet Freya knew she could not blame the youth, because she was the only one who knew Romaine’s secret in Bucce.
She was starting to regret that she did not tell Brendel, but how could she know that this dream world was so complicated?
However, Brendel did not fall into a spiral of confusion and thought quickly. He suddenly threw the ‘Thorn of Light’ over to them.
“Let her hold this.”
“The sword has the ability to purify darkness, let her hold it.” Even though his lips uttered these words, he knew in his heart that the Elven Sword only added 1 OZ of ‘Will’. He could only hope that it was enough to bring her out of danger.
He prayed to the highest holy figure in his heart, begging her to be more merciful to Romaine. Perhaps it was the sword, or perhaps it was his prayers to Marsha, not long after, she actually woke with a moan.
She blinked and rubbed her eyes to look at the two of them, looking blankly for a while, before speaking happily: “Freya, you’re already up. You know, I had a nightmare earlier!”
Freya was still in a daze, then she yelled from the bottom of her heart. She did not hear what the merchant girl said at all, but simply hugged her and cried. She had believed that there was no hope left but Brendel’s solution really worked.
“Romaine, you idiot!”
“W-what did you say?! I’m not an idiot!” Romaine seemed to have received a fatal blow, and she flailed her limbs in indignation.
Brendel was much calmer than Freya. The aid from the Thorn of Light and another person’s ‘Faith’ should be able to wake her up from the dream world no matter how deep she was in, but he was more worried about the aftermath of this situation.
But he knew that she was fine from her silly reaction.
“Alright, it’s fine to stop your tears now.” He continued: “The Golden Demonic Tree is going to wake up any time, and if there is anything to else to say, we should save it until the battle is over.”
Freya wiped away her tears and nodded.
“What should we do, Brendel?” She asked.
“We’re not the main protagonists in this battle, but a Rock Wurm in this valley–”
“Let me finish, Romaine! The Rock Wurm is something from that is born (Earth Element Type) as a Element Creature. It’s a natural enemy of the Golden Demonic Tree, but before the Rock Wurm becomes a mature adult, the Golden Demonic Tree is able to force it outside the valley by controlling the roots in the ground. It takes about 80 to 120 years for a Rock Wurm to become mature but we can’t wait this long, so we need to help it.”
“Help it?” Freya asked.
Brendel received the Elven Sword from Romaine, and he replied: “The Golden Demonic Tree’s body is very frail. The only attack it has is the roots extending from the ground and impaling its enemies. We need to to force it to attack us and the more roots it takes out from the ground, the less it has to fend off the Rock Wurm. Once that happens, the Rock Wurm is able to enter the center of this valley.”
“But we only have ten minutes. The first batch of Rotten Beast will arrive in ten minutes, and if we still have not killed it in that time frame, you must run towards the west side without hesitation. There’s a passageway there that’s quite visible.”
“What about you?” Romaine looked up at him.
“Protecting the rear should be left to a gentleman. This is the ladies’ prerogative.” He softly poked her bright forehead with his finger. He looked back at Freya who was tying up her ponytail in preparation for battle. She noticed his gaze and nodded.
He paused momentarily as he expected her to demand staying behind. There was no reluctance on her expression but a steady gaze.
[It looks like she matured from the dream world.]
He smiled happily as he saw a scintilla of the future Goddess of War’s presence on her. Then he turned back: “Romaine, wear the ring I gave you.”
The merchant girl immediately raised her hand smugly, waving the black and white ring clearly.
“Your task is to listen to the tremors from the ground, if you discover anything you must tell us straight away.”
“Then let’s move out. Once we cross the array of rocks below us, we will approach the Golden Demonic Tree. Pay attention to the formation below, as there’s a broken layer that will delay the Golden Demonic Tree from discovering us.” Brendel started moving as he spoke, and ran up to the protruding boulder, then signaled to Romaine and Freya to come over to him.
Freya grabbed Romaine’s hand and went over. She did so to prevent her from running around the place and to protect her at the same time. Also, she wanted him to concentrate on his task, and once the opportunity presented itself, they could attack the Golden Demonic Tree.
The three of them quickly rushed towards the indicated spot. He did not remember wrongly as they did not receive any attacks. But once they crossed the zone, Romaine immediately heard something from the ground.
“Brendel, there are noises in the ground.”
His heart thumped loudly, and he immediately yelled: “Scatter, scatter now!”
Freya instantly pushed Romaine to the sides, and the three of them separated from each other. Two thick vines sprang from the ground. The Golden Demonic Tree did not expect the insects here to foresee its attack, and the roots received Brendel’s attack without being prepared for it.
The youth cleaved into the center of the vines that were as thick as a bucket. It bit deeply into them, and silver flames immediately burst forth, burning them with a crackling sound. The Golden Demonic Tree trembled in pain from the attack, and the entire valley reverberated with a buzz.
[It’s calling for reinforcement again.]
Brendel’s heart sank. Time was running out. He looked back and saw Freya dodging the vines gracefully, and countered by slashing onto them. Even she only managed to cut through a third of the vine’s body, the clean attack impressed him.
[A great improvement in her swordsmanship. She benefited a lot from the dream.]
“Brendel, there’s another sound!” Romaine had moved towards the edge of the battlefield before turning around and yelling.
“How far?” Brendel yelled subconsciously, but immediately noticed his mistake. He had treated Romaine as a ‘Nightingale’ in the party, but she was only more sensitive in her perception and not a professional scout in the game.
“70 to 100 meters, probably.” Romaine thought for a moment.
“That far?” Brendel was taken aback slightly, before chopping off the vine that was attacking him. The remaining stump lost its vitality and sank down lifelessly; the place where it was cut off was burned black.
Brendel hesitated for a while, even though he found it a little incredulous, he decided to trust her: “Freya, enough! Do you see that small path over there, prepare to go over there.”
Freya’s actions only stopped for a split second before she raised the sword over her chest, and defended against the vine who whipped her over to one side. The ‘Feathers of Wind’ lit up and became a web of light, negating most of the impact and she rolled on the ground several times before climbing up. She was already at Romaine’s side.
“Romaine, let’s go!” She grabbed the merchant girl’s hand and ran to the indicated location.
“Ehhh! What about Brendel?”
“He will definitely catch up.”
[Oh? That lass has finally learned to trust me and not overextend herself.]
Brendel was relieved. He was afraid that Freya would make things complicated by staying behind. The vine that attacked Freya went after her again, but Brendel severed it into two from the earlier opening she made.
He did not dare to stay behind any longer with the enemies cleared. The movement below the ground was loud enough that he even could hear them, proving that Romaine’s judgment was accurate. But he was still surprised, how could that ditsy girl hear something at least 70 meters away?
[If I calculate it…. that’s at least 5 OZ worth of perception.]
That thought only appeared for just a split second and he immediately ran away. It was not hard for him to catch up to Freya and Romaine, but the three of them were constantly interrupted by the roots appearing.
Then suddenly, they heard a huge boom at the southern valley, and all the vines that were attacking them pulled back.
Brendel did not need to say anything, but the girls knew that the Rock Wurm had joined the fray.
“Did we win?” Romaine asked in delight.
He shook his head. They still had to enter the heart of the valley. In the remaining time, the Golden Demonic Tree would constantly measure which side was more threatening and move its numerous roots to stop them. This defense would not last very long and ultimately end in their victory.
As long as they managed to do it within the time frame.
There was less than five minutes.